Scheming For Relief: Deep(er) League Holds and Whiffs

When possible, we try to avoid one-trick ponies in fantasy baseball. That’s why hitters like Mike Trout, Carlos Gonzalez and Andrew McCutchen are as valuable as they are — they’re balanced and typically contribute to each of the traditional five hitting categories. But when honing your search for the perfect middle reliever in your deep holds league, the task becomes a bit trickier. In order to get the best bang for your buck, you want to look for the middle reliever who can earn the scab win, grab a save when the anointed closer has the night off and posts eye-popping whiff rates.

Let’s take a look at the four middle relievers who currently have at least one hold with a K% of 30% or better and a fifth reliever you should be paying attention to.

Small sample size warning: Each of the following relievers discussed have appeared in ten or less games and have logged less than 11 innings.

Ownership percentages taken from Yahoo! leagues.

Reliever %Y! IP Wins Holds K% SwStr%
Darin Downs 3% 8.1 0 3 41.9% 15.8%
Al Alburquerque 13% 10.2 0 4 40.9% 16.8%
Brandon Kintzler 0% 7.2 2 1 35.7% 16.7%
Carter Capps 1% 10.2 1 2 30% 15.6%
Tony Watson 1% 10 1 5 25% 8.7%

Darin Downs | Tigers | 3% – The 29-year-old southpaw finally cracked a major-league roster with the Tigers, his fourth team. Downs has appeared in seven games (8.1 IP) and struts a 2.16 ERA (1.33 FIP, 0.72 WHIP), a 41.9% K% and three holds. His stuff isn’t overpowering — the fourseamer barely touches 90 mph — but he misses a ton of bats (15.8% SwStr%), typically with his cutter. In fact, nine of Downs’ 13 strikeouts have come via the cutter. Gross. At any rate, those in search of holds and whiffs in deeper leagues should consider giving Mr. Downs some love.

Al Alburquerque | Tigers | 13% – Now, we all know about Al-Al at this point. His name was floated around here-and-there as a possible solution to the debacle that was the Tigers’ closing job. But fantasy baseballers in holds leagues can thank Jose Valverde for keeping Alburquerque off the bump in the ninth and allowing you to keep your holds pride-and-joy. He sports a fine 1.69 ERA (1.32 FIP), an elite K% (40.9%) and four holds in ten appearances. But owners should be wary of the 13.6 BB% that has inflated his WHIP to 1.22. Just don’t look at the WHIP and you’ll be in good shape.

Brandon Kintzler | Brewers | 0% – Milwaukee’s right-hander has been excellent out of the ‘pen this season with the exception of one blow-up against the Cubbies on April 8th. Kintzler yielded two-earned to the Northsiders that day — the only two runs he’s allowed in eight appearances thus far in ‘13. He’s flaunted sterling control of his four-pitch arsenal in 7.2 innings for the Brew Crew, carrying a 35.7 K% and a 3.8% BB% with a 2.35 ERA (0.79 FIP). Additionally, Kintzler snuck in two wins and a hold in just over three weeks of action., making him a fine target in the deepest of holds leagues.

Carter Capps | Mariners | 1% – Capps is a hard-throwing right-handed hurler that can touch 98 mph with control. He’s been hit around on a few occasions this season — evidenced by a 5.91 ERA (4.70 FIP) and a 1.69 WHIP — but should continue to get the call in high-leverage situations. Capps logged two holds to pair with 15 strikeouts in nine appearances to date.

Tony Watson | Pirates | 1% – 28-year-old Tony Watson currently owns a 2.70 ERA (3.41 FIP), a 0.80 WHIP and has earned five holds in ten frames. His strikeout rate (25.% K%) may not be as sexy as the relievers above, but he walks just 8.3% of batters he faces allowing him to maintain that modest WHIP. Watson is more effective versus lefties — LHB post just a .140 wOBA while RHB sport a .296 wOBA against the southpaw — but skipper Clint Hurdle has no issues running him out there regardless of who’s in the box. With Melancon and Grilli getting a lot of late-inning work out of the Pirates ‘pen, look for Watson to get a chance at some scab saves in addition to the decent rates and whiffs.

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In addition to contributing to the RotoGraphs blog, you can find Alan at his own site, and follow his nonsense on Twitter @TheFantasyFix.

11 Responses to “Scheming For Relief: Deep(er) League Holds and Whiffs”

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  1. saskatunes says:

    How bout Matt Reynolds? Seems like picking up 2 saves in ARI would put him at least in line behind Hernandez for holds. I’d feel better if he were a righty, though.

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    • Cliff says:

      Why would you feel better if he were a righty? I always target lefties for holds because more often than not, if a team is winning the game, they’re gonna have to get a lefty or 2 out during the 7th or 8th…most pens only carry 1-2 lefties….so I look for lefties in bullpens that don’t have an elite 8th inning option…Cincy(Marshall), Baltimore(O’Day), LAA(Burnett), Miami(Dunn), Atlanta(O’Flaherty), etc. Last thing you want is a right handed guy pitching in a crowded as hell bullpen(Al AL)

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  2. KJ says:

    Downs has been used in a few losses since a good earlier stretch of holds. Not sure how many more hold chances he’ll get with Valverde pushing him back in the depth chart. A lot of talent in that bullpen.

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  3. brianwilliams42 says:

    I was very excited to see this article. I’m in a 14-team mixed holds league, its tough to find someone with good rates that gets holds.

    Sadly, all but Kintzler are already taken. But he seems like a pretty good option. Just Axford and Henderson ahead of him, for righties.

    Or do I pick up Paco Rodriguez, who already has 5 holds… Paco who? 18% SwStr, lefty…no chance at saves but lots of holds already.

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  4. scott says:

    al-al’s 13.6 bb% is actually under his career average

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  5. squads says:

    Just checking out Al-Al’s stats and he has not given up a home run in the majors over 60+ innings. Yeah he walks guys, but he also keeps them in the park.

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  6. pete says:

    no love for tanner scheppers? no runs allowed yet and he was named the 8th inning guy for the rangers

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  7. Nick says:

    I was offered Kenley Jansen for Chris Perez, I like Jansen better but he doesn’t have the closer spot yet. Thoughts?

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